Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Tis winter, still...

Grey skies hold no allure to me right now, yet there is a "silver lining" to every cloud, right?
One could go out and try to find that lining...
Bernie lured me into a Mill Creek hike near dinner time yesterday. 
I went, bringing along my Sony point and shot camera, simply because I had been reading about the joys of black and white photography, which is best indulged in when the sky is grey and looks unpromising of anything good.

The snow looked weary, trodden upon by man and beast, melted and refrozen to the point where it had totally lost its pristine appeal.
Such snow is just the thing for black and white work though.

(I now am on the look out for natural snow rolls, and the tracks they make as they tumble down the hillside.
The humor of this particular one coming to rest in a paw print gave me a smile.)

For most of the hike (just in boots, no need for snow shoes when the snow has hardened) I could hardly find the sun overhead.
When it managed a weak wintry glow, I took note of it.

All the reading that I have done directs shooting in color first, then switching the photos to black and white later, using a photo manager like Photoshop or Picasa.
In most of my shots, it was hard to tell whether they had already been switched to black and white or not.

What I am most interested in determining is the most pleasing color temperature, and how to achieve it.
I'd like to do some black and white portraits, but dislike the blue grey tones replacing the warm tones of the skin.  That will be an area of exploration on another photo session, for now I find adding just a touch of warm to the landscape shots appealed to me.

I do like how the blackest of areas seem almost mirror like when I view the photographs full sized.

Looking at shots without color also makes me consider the pictures composition more.
Yes...I am easily distracted by pretty colors!
But pretty colors look even better when place thoughtfully in a composition; I need to consider the picture structure as well as the exciting colors.

Having photographed these forests in autumnal blaze and springtime brightness, I am finding the snow to be rather boring.  The black and white option gives me another way of "enjoying" the snow until the seasons offer me colors again.

(A bit of happy news: we could spy a few fish in some of the deeper stream bed pools.  Oh how Bernie is itching to go fishing again!)

I know in a few weeks I will look up through the tree branches and realized the leaves have unfurled. 
I saw no such leafing yesterday, and also recognize that early leaves can catch late snow and cause a lot of damage to the trees.
I need to be patient and agree that God is letting everything proceed in due course for a reason.

Don't those tree "toes" look like they are in for a chilly dangle in the stream?

There was one bit of color: the moss of course.

I learned a new word a few days ago: Bokeh
That's the technical name for the part of a picture that is out of focus, either deliberately or by chance.
The branch shooting away in the background is an example of bokeh. 

Christmas lights that fuzz out to a bubble shape or raindrops that make lights look blurred are other examples.

I wasn't trying for bokeh in this shot; it happened naturally because I was using my on-camera macro setting.

Isn't it cool to have another word to toss around that makes one sound like they know what they are doing?
Little by little, maybe I will!

And little by little, spring WILL come. 
Until then, I am going to try to learn a few more things about seeing beauty in all the seasons of life.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Flower Fairies must be out there somewhere....

 I think with the cheery blossoms blooming in my yard it is time to post a few more pages from my Flower Fairies book.

The clever use of flower form and color to adorn the illustrated fairies charms me the most.
(The little boy fairy reminds me of a wee lad who is currently visiting his grandmother in Florida...except for the ears, of course!)

There was a time when the ability to recite apt poetry at will was a much admired ability.
Lots of us can manage a line or two from the Walt Whitman's Daffodil poem; wouldn't it be fun to be able to say a poem about crocus too?

Love the line "Each with a flame in its shining cup".

(You can bet that if had a grand about the garden I would be sure to help them know the poem by heart too...)

Another clever costume...

Heart's-ease, Wild Pansy, Jump-up-and-kiss-me...I always called them Johnny Jump-ups.
This poem seems a tad more challenging; the second verse works best IMHO.

I am looking closely at my crocus...I can see "the flame in the shining cup", but haven't spied a fairy just yet though.

My poor little Heart's Ease looks more like a "Jump Up and Nibble Me" to me.
It was probably bit by a slug fairy.
Yeah...I've seen a lot of those!

(I've spent the morning clearing out garden beds of winter's fallen leaves and sticks, and trimmed back some dead foliage to reveal the beginnings of bleeding heart, oriental poppy and sedeum amidst the tulip and daffodil sprouts.  Spring may not officially calendar in until Monday, but I have jumped the gun and switched out my fall/winter china for my spring/summer set, changed the living room pillow covers and am tackling some mending.  The morning sun which spurred me into the garden has now changed to bluster; rain is in the forecast, otherwise I would be getting after our murky windows too.  Got to remember to pace myself; snow is often part of our late March and April, and sometimes even makes an appearance in May.) 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

As Usual....on St. Patrick's Day

If it is St.Patrick's Day, you can be sure of a couple of things around our house.
Our Irish Lass will be out on the mantle, and the little leprechaun on my sidebar will be found someplace too.
It is a simple task to make up the mantle; the doll, some 'tatties (which is our nickname for wee Tate as well), crystal candle holders and sometimes a bit of lace too.

Keeping it simple:  Two tiny vases get filled using what was currently blooming in the garden yesterday, and bit of yew balances the mantle along with another tattie.

What is this that I spied the garden today?
There it was spearing up from the ground by the steps to the lower lot; it definitely was NOT there yesterday!

The dwarf iris are blooming!
The whole blossom would barely cover a match book, yet it is so very detail rich.

The tight bud shows the vein design to come, but gives no hint of the flower's eventual structure.

Another surprise:  Yesterday we had only purple, yellow and golden crocus to enjoy.
Today the white ones are rising up, seemingly beribboned about with purple trim, and still with grains of earth clinging about.

The plain purple buds seem rather subdued by comparison.

Nevertheless, I am quick to kneel down and give its purple loveliness its due.

The bedazzling dewdrops adorn the simple color, adding the element of jewels to the design.

Bernie mentions that some of his potted plants are blooming in the downstairs bath.
I go in to see what he has been growing.
Indeed, the pink geranium in blossoming nicely!

I mist them and photograph them for Bernie.

His bonsai bougainvillea is blooming inside as well.
The light coming through the frosted bathroom window shines though the paper-ish petals.

The papery pink petals surround the triad of blossoms that are still in bud.

I am finding the softness provided by macro lens photograph to be quite pleasing to me.
The pictures take on less of a documentary style and more of a mood and artistic flair.

The buds are still quite tightly closed; I will watch and wait for them to open and reveal the plant's tiny white true flower.


The backside of an "Aunt Lu" begonia leaf; the begonia  from a cutting that we carried from Houston, that originally came from San Diego.

Just for comparison, I photographed the dwarf iris in regular close up mode.
I can get in the entire flower, but also get  focused background in the shot as well.
Very documentary...not quite so interpretive or artistic.

I guess it just depends if I wish to see my world in sharp focus...

Like this....

Or focus on just part of my world at a time, and allow the rest of the world remain in a bit of dreamy haze.

I must say: it is nice when photographing to now have that choice.
Wonder how such an option could be found for the rest of my life.
Oh well...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Macro To My World

Question: What could a 10X macro camera lens do for me?

(And another good question: How much money would I be willing to risk to find out?)

Here's how close my Canon EOS Rebel T2i  is able to shoot on its macro (close up) setting (the little flower icon) using just the 18-55 mm lens that came with the camera.

The closest I can get to anything to take a picture on that setting is 0.25m/0.8 ft.
That means I have to stay eight inches away in order to obtain a clear focus and have the camera take the picture.

By screwing the little 10X macro lens in front of the camera's regular lens I am then able shoot a picture from only 2 inches away.
The drawback is that being that close up changes the depth of field capacity; in other words, the amount of the scene that is in focus gets pretty small.
Hence the sharp focus pin, and slightly blurry sewing machine bobbin.

Of course I could (and usually do...) just crop the picture to make it into a close up.
That's what I did with the first picture to make this picture.
The whole picture stays clearer that way.

(I used to be able to get into pollen level close with my old Sony Point and Shoot camera.  It really bummed me out that my DSLR Canon couldn't keep up with the little camera in a macro shoot.)

But wait!
There's more to it!

Fabric photographed using a regular shooting setting on my DSLR Canon.

Fabric photographed using the on-camera macro setting.

Fabric photographed using the 10X macro lens added on.

Which allows (from the previous picture), cropping down to a single woven square.
This degree of detail is the result of having the 10X macro power added to my camera!

Plus there are some pretty cool "artist" effects that can be created using the lens.
The focused middle with the blurred edges is pretty neat.

(A similar effect can be made by using the portrait setting on a camera, or some cameras have a blurred background/focused foreground setting. 

Incidentally, a landscape setting (usually the icon is a couple of mountains) focuses both the foreground and the background and takes a wider shot.

Just a bit of added camera trivia that I picked up along the way.

Any way....I was noodling around on a camera tutoring web page and happened to be reading people's answers to which camera lens they couldn't live without.
I started looking at lens, and lens prices, and then decided to see what  kind of prices were to be had for lenses acquired on ebay.

I stumbled on a lens dealer out of Hong Kong who was selling a 10X macro for Canon cameras for a grand total of $16 with free shipping to boot.

Sixteen bucks.

What the bad could I strike out at that price?

I read the seller's ratings and comments by customers; everyone seemed totally satisfied.
Two clicks later and I was the proud winner of a 10X macro lens.
An email arrived with congratulations and the advice to be patient since the lens was being shipped all the way from Hong Kong.  

I should be prepared to wait for at least three weeks.

So while I waited the world spun, elements of my life changed, snow fell and then melted.
I spent time shooting lots and lots of distance shots down in the red rock country.
I can't think of a single shot where I might have had a need for a macro lens.

On Monday I noticed that my crocus were blooming outside.

I started hoping the lens would arrive soon.

I did some reading about photographing flowers...

Then today, just when I was wishing for some good news in my life, a small package plastered with  beautiful bird stamps arrived, all the way from Hong Kong.

I wasted little time giving the lens a work out.  These are my first pictures using the lens! 

(See? I thought  right away about my blogging buddies and took fabric and bobbin pictures to illustrate what was happening with me, my camera and my new lens.)

One of the "artistic" elements that can happen with the lens is sometimes getting a circular frame around the subject of the picture.  I think that is kind of fun sometimes, but I can always crop the dark circle out if I want.
Or I can learn to use the lens better.  Skill will come with a little patience and practice I hope...this isn't just point and shoot kind of work. 

The camera won't shoot unless the range is right and it is difficult for me to figure out two inches except by physically moving the camera around.

The size of the focal point is tied into the f stop and the ISO and timer usage.
I haven't even begun to mess around with those technical details. 
I just have been on my knees poking my camera two inches away from flowers and trying to figure out how to hold my hands as steady as possible as I click.
(I can really see my slightest hand tremble while I am focusing.  My mini tripod or a bean bag camera rest will come in handy when I really get up and running with this new lens.)

For now I am just very happy with the blurry background effects and how close I can crop into  my shots.

And considering the future of Japanese imports, I am both a bit taken aback and thankful that I got a lens made in Japan before all the horrors that have befallen the country.

I doubt any of us will ever see "Made in Japan" again without feeling a bit sobered.

(Bernie worked on the San Onofrey Nuclear Power plant in Southern California while it was being constructed.  I am peppering him with questions about what is happening in Japan and he is proving to be a well of information on the topic of nuclear disasters. It just seem impossible that so much can be happening in that country.)

(The paper work arrived with the lens, a carrying bag and a lens wipe. I used the paper work for my first picture, it demonstrates how the depth of field can be quite small when using a manual focus.  The paper work explained what options can be utilized to get various effects.)

(If you are interested in getting a lens like this or perhaps other lenses for other cameras, the ebay website is HERE.)